Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS): What Singaporean Jobseekers Need To Know

By Michael Ng   •   5 min read

Applying for a lot of jobs but not hearing back?

Your resume may not even have been seen by a human.
Instead, it may have been rejected by software – the Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

Did you know that an ATS rejects on average 75% of the resumes it receives?

What makes things worse is that over 90% of large companies are using ATS for their recruitment process, especially in a recession when they are flooded with thousands of resumes.

Just by optimising your resume for an ATS, you are putting yourself in the eligible candidate pool – ahead of the other 75% of applicants. Let’s dig deeper into it.

What are Applicant Tracking Systems?

ATS is a software used by companies to manage all the candidates applying for their open positions. It’s used by over 90% of large companies, and the majority of medium and small companies are moving towards this direction as well.

When you apply for a job online, chances are your resume may not go directly to recruiters or hiring managers. It’s first being processed by an ATS. This also means that once you pass the software screening, you are already in the top 25% of candidates.

How do Applicant Tracking Systems work?

The ATS sorts through all the resumes and turns them into a standard basic format. It then takes these standardised resumes and compares them against the job description to see which ones are the best match.

For example, the ATS will look out for the skills and keywords that the hiring manager has listed in the job description. They will then compare this against your resume to look for matching skills and keywords.

This way, the recruiter or a hiring manager only needs to review the resumes that have passed the ATS screening when deciding who to interview. Chances are that these candidates are the ones who are most likely to be a good fit for the position.

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

                                                             Image source: Jobscan

What companies in Singapore use ATS?

A survey by Kelly OCG estimated that 66% of large companies and 35% of small organizations rely on recruitment software. According to Jobscan, 98% of Fortune 500 companies use ATS, including companies that have offices in Singapore such as Nike, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Amazon and Adobe. In addition, Google and Facebook have developed their own ATS software.

Online job portals such as LinkedIn and Indeed also have an ATS to help hiring companies sort their candidates. Therefore, when you apply for a job online, there is a significant chance that they may use an ATS to filter your resume.

How to beat Applicant Tracking Systems

  • Use the same keywords included in the job description. Pay attention to words or phrases used multiple times. It’s critical you insert them in your resume. For those important keywords, make sure they appear on your resume 2 to 3 times. Bear in mind that optimising the keywords on your resume for an ATS does not mean cheating the system. Only include them if you actually have the relevant skills or experience. Cheating the system may backfire on you, such as getting blacklisted the next time you apply for the company.
  • Don’t use tables or columns as they often cause major parsing errors (human translation: the ATS is unable to read your CV).
  • Use PDFs or Word documents because these are your safest choices. The ATS may unable to scan through other types of documents, so play safe.
  • Kept your font simple. Use Times New Roman, Helvetica, Garamond, Georgia or Arial because the ATS is not sophisticated enough to recogniSe unusual characters. The ATS works best with simple formatting and clear wording.
  • ATS scans for words, so it’s not going to recognise images. Avoid including images in your resume, especially if they contain any text.
  • Don’t try to get too creative. When you put work experience on your resume, write “Work Experience”. Don’t write, “Jobs I’ve held” or anything that may be more complicated than it has to be. You want it to be really simple for the software to understand.
  • Don’t use headers or footers as the information might not get picked up by the ATS.
  • Remember that your resume is for both ATS and the recruiters who are going to read through it. Therefore, even though optimising your resume for ATS is necessary, making it clear and easy to read is still paramount to attracting recruiters or HR managers


Here’s a Pro Tip: There is software that you can use to determine how optimised your resume is for Applicant Tracking Systems. Jobscan allows you to upload your resume and paste the job description to see how well your resume matches the job description, or if there are keywords that you should add into your resume.

Jobscan applicant tracking system

Keywords match job description

Drawbacks of ATS

Even though Applicant Tracking Systems reduce employers’ time taken to screen through jobseekers’ resumes, it also has some drawbacks. The hiring company may miss out on top talent because their resume is not optimised for ATS screening. Also, not all companies use ATS in the same way. Some companies may still screen all applicants again, to confirm the ATS screening.

For jobseekers, you may have an attractive resume for human eyes with aesthetic visuals to apply for more creative positions such as marketer, graphic designer or UI/UX designer. If you don’t want to optimise it for the Applicant Tracking Systems, then you can choose to apply for jobs using some online job portals which don’t use an ATS such as TalentTribe.


Hope you’ve gotten better insights into what are Applicant Tracking Systems and how they work. If you’re looking for more resume tips, I think you’ll like these articles:

The 6-seconds resume test don’t exist. Here’s how should write your CV instead.


Image Link to Insightful Lists to Kickstart Your Career with the Ultimate List of Interview Questions Cheatsheet desktop

Image Link to Insightful Lists to Kickstart Your Career with the Ultimate List of Interview Questions Cheatsheet mobile

Michael Ng

TalentTribe Writer

Micheal found a hard time trying to land an internship when he got his diploma 2 years ago. He understands the existing problems job seekers are facing, and wants to share his experiences to help them out.


We share more career wisdom with our tribe

Click here to join over 20,000+ career-minded professionals on our career newsletter.

We'll also welcome you with an email series of our best resources.

Look inside different companies and careers. Apply for jobs and internships in Singapore.© 2021 TalentTribe Asia